Eva de la Gardie was a pioneer in the use of potatoes in Sweden, including the invention of a method to produce alcohol using potatoes. For this achievement, she was the first woman to become a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
The potato was first introduced in Sweden during the 1700s – it was originally only appreciated for its flowers and medicinal properties before its value as a foodstuff was realised.
Countess Eva de la Gardie (married name Ekeblad) was a very intelligent woman with a keen interest in science. She also managed a large household with many people on the family’s estate in Västergötland.
Eva de la Gardie realised that potatoes had a wide range of uses – for example, in the production of powder, alcohol and starch. At that time, it was popular for both men and women to apply powder to their faces and their large wigs. With Eva de la Gardie’s new powder, they no longer had to use powder that contained arsenic.
In the 1700s, alcohol was produced using grains, such as wheat, barley and rye. By making it possible for alcohol to be made from potatoes, Eva de la Gardie ensured that this grain could instead be used for the baking of more bread. Her potato starch could also be used for sauces when cooking food.
On 3rd December 1748, aged just 24, Eva Ekeblad de la Gardie was the first woman to be elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Last updated 7 December 2021.